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DEBORAH A.

LYONS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL & ASSOCIATES; ATTORNEY LINA, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 13-56657.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted December 10, 2015 Pasadena, California.
Filed June 8, 2016.
Richard J. Rubin (argued), Santa Fe, New Mexico; Robert L. Hyde and Joshua Swigart, Hyde &
Swigart, San Diego, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
Lisa D. Dubowski (argued) and Christina L. Rymsza, Michael & Associates, PC, Thousand
Oaks, California, for Defendants-Appellees.
Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Carlos F. Lucero[*], and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge Nguyen.

OPINION
NGUYEN, Circuit Judge.
Deborah Lyons appeals the district court's dismissal of her case against Lina Michaels and
Michael & Associates on the ground that it was time-barred. Lyons alleges that the defendants
are debt collectors who violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") when they
sued her in the wrong judicial district to collect a debt that had been transferred to them. The
district court concluded that the FDCPA's one-year statute of limitations began to run on the date
that the debt collection action was filed, and because Lyons failed to bring this case within one
year of that date, her claim is time-barred. Relying on Naas v. Stolman, 130 F.3d 892 (1997), the
district court rejected Lyons' argument that, under the discovery rule, her complaint was timely
filed within one year of the date that the defendants served her with process, which is when she
first learned of the collection action. Instead of Naas, the district court should have applied
Mangum v. Action Collection Service, Inc., 575 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2009). In that case, we held
that the discovery rule applies in an FDCPA action. We therefore reverse and remand.

BACKGROUND
On January 3, 2013, Lyons filed this lawsuit in the district court for the Southern District of
California against Lina Michaels[1] and Michael & Associates (collectively, "Michael &
Associates"). According to Lyons' complaint, Michael & Associates are debt collectors who
violated the FDCPA when they filed a lawsuit against her on December 7, 2011, in Monterey
County, California, to collect on a debt that she owed to American Express, which had been
transferred to them. The FDCPA requires debt collectors who take legal action to collect a debt

unrelated to an interest in real property to file in the judicial district where the consumer (1)
"signed the contract sued upon," or (2) "resides at the commencement of the action." 15 U.S.C.
1692i. Lyons alleges that Michael & Associates violated these provisions of the FDCPA because
she did not enter into a contract with America Express in Monterey County and, during the
relevant time period, she resided in San Diego County, California. In short, she claims that
Michael & Associates sued her in the wrong county.
Michael & Associates moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it was not filed "within
one year from the date on which the violation occurs" as the FDCPA requiresthat is, within
one year from December 7, 2011, the date they filed the debt collection action against her. 15
U.S.C. 1692k(d). Lyons does not dispute that her action was filed more than one year after she
was sued by Michael & Associates. She nevertheless argues that her complaint was timely
because she did not know or have reason to know about the collection case against her until midJanuary of 2012, when she was served with process. According to Lyons, the FDCPA statute of
limitation is tolled by the discovery rule.
Citing Naas v. Stolman, the district court dismissed Lyons' case as time-barred. In Naas, a panel
of this court suggested that an FDCPA "violation occurs" when the debt collection action is filed.
130 F.3d at 893. The district court recognized some tension between Naas and a subsequent case,
Mangum v. Action Collection Service, Inc.which applied the "discovery rule" to an FDCPA
action without mentioning Naas, 575 F.3d at 941but ultimately decided that Naas controls the
outcome of this case. This appeal followed.

JURISDICTION & STANDARD OF REVIEW


We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. We review de novo the dismissal of a complaint on
the basis of a statute of limitations. Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir.
2004).

DISCUSSION
A claim under the FDCPA must be brought "within one year from the date on which the violation
occurs." 15 U.S.C. 1692k(d). The question is which date controls.

A.
We start our analysis with Mangum, which is almost directly on point. In that case, the plaintiff
alleged that debt collection agencies violated the FDCPA by wrongfully disclosing her debt
information to an outside party, and that her complaint was timely because she filed it within one
year of the date that she learned of the disclosure. 575 F.3d at 937-39. The question that we had
to decide was "whether commencement of the one year [statute of limitations] period was
delayed by the discovery rule." Id. at 940. We recognized that
[I]n general, the discovery rule applies to statutes of limitations in federal litigation, that is,
"[f]ederal law determines when the limitations period begins to run, and the general federal rule

is that `a limitations period begins to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the
injury which is the basis of the action.'"
Id. (second alteration in original) (quoting Norman-Bloodsaw v. Lawrence Berkeley Lab., 135
F.3d 1260, 1266 (9th Cir. 1998)). We considered whether the statutory language and legislative
history of the FDCPA, or the Supreme Court's then-recent guidance in TRW Inc. v. Andrews, 534
U.S. 19 (2001), in which the Court held that the discovery rule does not apply to the Fair Credit
Reporting Act, compelled us to reach a different conclusion. See Mangum, 575 F.3d at 939-41.
Concluding that they did not, we applied the discovery rule and held that Mangum's complaint
was timely because the statute of limitations only began to run when she first knew (or should
have known) that her information had been wrongfully disclosed. Id. at 941.
Following Mangum, we also applied the discovery rule where the alleged FDCPA violation
involved debt collection letters. See Tourgeman v. Collins Fin. Servs., Inc., 755 F.3d 1109, 1118
n.5 (9th Cir. 2014) ("The district court appropriately concluded that `the first time that
[Tourgeman] reasonably could have become aware of the allegedly false and misleading
representations in Defendants' letters was when his father was served with summons and
complaint in the state court lawsuit in October 2007,' after which litigation discovery revealed
the existence of the collection letters.").
Here, Lyons alleges that Michael & Associates violated the FDCPA by filing a collection lawsuit
against her in Monterey County, a location where she neither lived nor "signed the contract sued
upon." See 15 U.S.C. 1692i. The fact that the alleged violation was the wrongful filing of a
debt collection actionrather than the wrongful disclosure of information to third parties as in
Mangum, or a violation in debt collection letters as in Tourgemanmakes no difference to our
analysis. We therefore hold that the discovery rule applies equally regardless of the nature of the
FDCPA violation alleged by a plaintiff. In this case, Lyons argues that she first learned of the
collection action when she received service of process, and that she had no reason to suspect that
she had been sued in Monterey County, a venue that is considerably distant from her residence in
the San Diego County. Michael & Associates do not contend otherwise, instead contesting only
the date on which the statute of limitations was triggered. Applying the discovery rule to the
undisputed facts, we find that Lyons' complaint was timely-filed.
We reject the suggestion by Michael & Associates to apply the discovery rule narrowly to only
certain FDCPA claims, depending on the nature of the violation alleged by a plaintiff. Applying
the discovery rule to some FDCPA claims but not others would be out of step with our general
approach to the discovery rule, and would threaten to capriciously limit the broad, remedial
scope of the FDCPA. See Tourgeman, 755 F.3d at 1118 ("In addition, `[b]ecause the FDCPA . . .
is a remedial statute, it should be construed liberally in favor of the consumer.'") (quoting Clark
v. Capital Credit & Collection Servs., Inc., 460 F.3d 1162, 1176 (9th Cir. 2006)); see also
Donohue v. Quick Collect, Inc., 592 F.3d 1027, 1033-34 (9th Cir. 2010).

B.
We next address Naas v. Stolman, a case relied on by the district court to conclude that the statute
of limitations begins to run on the date the underlying debt collection action was filed. 130 F.3d

at 893. Naas, however, does not dictate the result here. In that case, the question of whether the
discovery rule applies to FDCPA cases was never presented to nor addressed by our court.
In Naas, the plaintiffs were sued in a state court debt collection action for unpaid hospital bills.
After the debt collector successfully obtained judgment, the plaintiffs appealed to the Appellate
Department of the California Superior Court, which eventually affirmed the judgment. Six
months before the state Appellate Department ruled, however, the plaintiffs filed a federal
lawsuit claiming FDCPA violations. At the time of filing, the parties had been litigating the debt
collection action for more than two years. The district court dismissed the federal lawsuit as
timebarred. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the complaint was timely because it was filed
within one year of the date the state Appellate Department affirmed the judgment against them.
Id. We disagreed, stating that the appellate court judgment date could not possibly be the "date
on which the violation occurs" under the plain language of 15 U.S.C. 1692k(d). If the plaintiffs
were correct, "then their federal action would have been premature, as it was brought six months
before that judgment." Id. ("The alleged violation of the Act was not a reviewing court judgment,
but the bringing of the suit itself. . . . We hold that the statute of limitations began to run on the
filing of the complaint in the Municipal Court.").
Notably, the discovery of the debt collection suit is entirely absent from our analysis in Naas: the
plaintiffs did not argue for a later start date based on when they were served with process, and,
perhaps for obvious reasons, there is no indication that the affirmance of the judgment was the
first time the plaintiffs learned of the defendants' debt collection efforts. See id. at 892-93.
Simply put, Naas answered a different question than the one posed by the parties here. That the
court in Naas was not considering application of the discovery rule is further illustrated by the
fact Naas relied in part on cases involving the mailing of debt collection letters, but as we
recently held in Tourgeman, the discovery rule applies in such matters too. 755 F.3d at 1118 n.5.
Moreover, factual differences between this case and Naas also confirm that the discovery rule
should apply here. Naas's conclusionthat the limitations period is triggered by the filing of the
collection actionis based in part on the assumption that the filing date is "easily ascertainable."
130 F.3d at 893. But that is less obvious where, as here, the collection lawsuit is alleged to have
been filed in an improper venue far from where the plaintiff actually lived. Indeed, the discovery
rule seems particularly apropos where the very nature of the deficiency alleged increases the
likelihood that the filing date would not be "easily ascertainable" to the debtor absent some other
form of notice, such as service of process.[2]
Naas thus stands for the proposition that, under the FDCPA, the injury which forms the basis of
the action is the filing of the underlying collection lawsuit. When confronted for the first time in
Mangum with the question of whether the discovery rule should apply to that same statute of
limitations provision, we answered in the affirmative. Of course, Mangum does not foreclose the
possibility that the statute of limitations could begin on the filing date where the alleged FDCPA
violation is a collection lawsuit (that is, "when the violation occurs"), but it allows plaintiffs to
demonstrate that it does not.
While Mangum did not involve the filing of a collection lawsuit, we see no reason to limit our
conclusion that the discovery rule applies to 15 U.S.C. 1692k(d) to its particular facts. Such a

holding would read Naas too broadly and Mangum too narrowly. We therefore conclude that the
district court should have applied Mangum's holding that the discovery rule applies to FDCPA
claims.

CONCLUSION
"[I]n general, the discovery rule applies to statutes of limitations in federal litigation. . . ."
Mangum, 575 F.3d at 940. We follow Mangum in expressly applying that general rule to 15
U.S.C. 1692k(d) where the alleged FDCPA violation is the filing of a collection lawsuit.
Applying the discovery rule to the undisputed facts here, we find that Lyons' complaint was
timely. We therefore reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
[*] The Honorable Carlos F. Lucero, Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, sitting by
designation.
[1] Named in the complaint as "Attorney Lina."
[2] We decline to adopt Michael & Associates' suggestion to apply Mangum where service on the collection lawsuit
was improper, and apply Naas where it was proper. It is unclear why, if Naas is best read a true exception to
Mangum's general application of the discovery rule, proper service would be an appropriate boundary line. To
concede that improper service dictates application of the discovery rule is to concede that the discovery date is
relevant and that the filing date, on its own, may be insufficie